Regularly conducting employee surveys is critical to the future success of your company. To be able to move forward, you need to have a good idea of what you’re doing well and also where you’re struggling. 

Some of this stuff you can tell by looking at your business metrics. But some of the other stuff, particularly some of the behind the scenes stuff that is harder to measure — such as employee engagement and satisfaction — you can’t learn unless you ask people directly about it. 

Surveys can also help you discover problems you didn’t even know existed. 

For example, perhaps there’s a problem with one of your systems that no one has ever spoken up about. However, after you do a survey, you find it’s interfering with everyone’s ability to do their job. Now, thanks to this information, you have something specific to focus on that will help move your business forward. 

However, conducting surveys that produce useful results is not as easy as it sounds. You need to be careful how you word questions, and you also need to get enough participation for the results to be considered valid.

To help you get more out of your employee surveys, here are some things to help you out:  

Communicate the Purpose of the Survey and Its Importance to Management

One of the biggest factors in determining the effectiveness and validity of your survey is participation rate. If you send out 1,000 surveys and get 50 responses, it’s hard to say that your results are valid. Maybe these 50 people are the happiest, most engaged group, which may be why they responded in the first place, and using their answers to represent the whole would be missing out on what’s actually happening. 

The best way to avoid this is to try to get as many people to respond to the survey as possible. Ideally, you’d want as close to a 100 percent response rate as possible, since this is an internal survey and the group is smaller in size. But this isn’t always possible. 

If you can’t get that high of a response rate, then you’ll want to start fiddling with statistical significance to see if any of the data you collected is valid.

One way to do this in a corporate setting is to get management on board. Have the CEO or some other leader write out an email explaining the purpose of the survey, why it’s important, and what you plan to do with the information once it’s submitted. Also, be sure to make it clear that answers will be kept fully confidential. 

People are more likely to respond to something front the top than they are from a fellow employee, especially if it’s someone random from HR. 

Of course, making this happen means getting management on board with the survey. But that shouldn’t be too hard; most modern managers see the benefit of conducting employee surveys. You just need to get them more involved so that there will be more buy-in from the masses and therefore more valid results. 

Keep the Survey Focused on What You Want to Measure

One way to increase your response rate and also boost the effectiveness of your survey results is to keep the survey short and to the point. There are always tons of things you can measure, but it’s best to focus on a couple at a time. 

This will allow you to get more depth out of the survey. For example, if you ask, “How effective is management at helping you achieve a good work-life balance?”, a focused survey would then ask some follow-up questions, such as “Does management cross boundaries when assigning tasks?” or “Does your manager ask for your input before assigning you work?” 

Depending on the answers, you now have some explanations for the response to your first question. 

If you try to measure too many things at once, then not only will the data you collect be less compelling but it’s also likely that your survey will get too long, which discourages participation. 

Try to keep it to ten minutes or less so that people don’t feel like participating will be a big time drain. When you make your survey using a free survey creator, it will tell you how long it should take to complete, which is a useful tool for planning your survey.

Include Quality Questions

When it comes to survey questions, quality is much more important than quantity. It’s much better to ask fewer questions and get good answers than to ask a bunch and walk away with useless data.

In most cases, this means avoiding double-barreled and leading questions. 

Double barreled questions ask about two things at once. For example, “Does your manager listen to your concerns and respond to them?”

If someone answers “yes,” which question are they answering? Maybe their manager is a good listener but struggles to respond. Or perhaps the person answered no because their manager doesn’t do both. In either case, this is a wasted question because it doesn’t really tell you anything. 

Leading questions start the respondent in a particular direction because it makes an assumption. For example, “What type of improvements would you make to our purchasing processes?” 

In this question, you’re assuming that improvements need to be made. Even if the question is open-ended, by asking it in this way people are going to think they need to say something, which may lead to them to provide less-than-truthful responses, which don’t really help you all that much. 

Allow for and Encourage Feedback

Although multiple choice questions make your surveys easier to fill out and also to process results, make sure to include some open-ended questions that encourage feedback. Remember, you’re trying to get your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the company. It’s hard to do this with just a series of multiple choice questions. 

Here’s where it’s once again critical to communicate that these surveys are anonymous. If employees suspect they’ll be tied to their answers, they either won’t particupate or might not be truthful, both of which hurt the overall efficacy of the survey.

Prepare to do Surveys Regularly 

Lastly, conducting surveys is not a one-time thing. Instead, you need to be prepared to do them regularly. Once a year is ideal, though bigger companies tend to have to stretch it out to once every other year. 

This not only helps you stay in touch with what’s happening at the company and exposes areas where you need to improve, but it allows you to track progress over time. If in one survey you found that engagement was low, and then you took steps to try and improve, the next survey is your chance to see if your actions produced the intended effect. 

In the end, conducting surveys is about embracing the spirit of continuous improvement. There are always ways to get better, and instead of just taking shots in the dark about what would improve you, why not just ask people directly? And since you now know how to get reliable results, you’re that much closer to affecting positive change at your company, setting yourself up for long-term success.